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A week in family law: No-fault divorce, children attacking parents and ‘repeat marriages’

Others may be sitting on beaches braving the English summer, or joining the queues at our airports as they seek to jet off to sunnier climes. I, however, remain at my post, here to bring you the latest family law news, which this week included the following three stories.

Firstly, as I discussed here in this post, the Christian Institute, a charity that exists for “the furtherance and promotion of the Christian religion in the United Kingdom” has said that the government’s approach to no-fault divorce is a “marriage-wrecker’s charter”. The charity says that the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill “will further liberalise our law, which already allows far too many divorces.” Hmm. I’m not sure how you can “allow far too many divorces”. After all, a divorce only happens after a marriage has broken down. It’s not as if the law is causing more marriages to break down. Or perhaps that’s how some people think. Whatever, Institute Director Colin Hart has said (and I am correcting the typographical errors): “We are already seeing a deeply worrying shift in young people’s attitudes, away from Christian marriage and lifelong commitment to your husband or wife. Forty-two percent of marriages already end in divorce but the Government is carrying on as it wants it to be 100 per cent. Its approach to no-fault divorce is a marriage-wrecker’s charter.” With respect, I think he’s got it completely wrong. I won’t repeat my reasons for saying this here – just read my post. Meanwhile, however, the Bill is proceeding through Parliament. I had been concerned that our new Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland QC, might not be as enthusiastic about it as this predecessor David Gauke, but I was pleased to see it reported that he intends to press ahead with the reform. Provided that we don’t have a general election first, of course.

Secondly, a worrying story, even if it may not technically be about family law. The BBC has reported that data obtained by it under a freedom of information request suggests that the number of reported crimes involving children attacking parents has doubled in the past three years. The report tells us that comparable data for 19 police forces in England, Wales and the Channel Islands saw annual incidents jump from 7,224 in 2015 to 14,133 in 2018. West Midlands Police saw incidents nearly treble, from 1,084 in 2015 to 3,067 in 2018, and Metropolitan Police figures also rose but by a smaller rate, from 2,851 in 2015 to 3,233 in 2018. The National Police Chiefs Council, however, said the rise was due to a change in recording practices. Notwithstanding this, Tom Madders, Director of Communications, Campaigns and Participation at the mental health charity Young Minds, commented: “The figures are alarming but they don’t surprise us. When a young person is behaving in this way towards their parents there is a high likelihood that there is some sort of mental distress involved and that young person is communicating that they do need some support and too often that support is too hard to access. People are reaching out for support and not getting it and often having to resort to calling the police as the only line of support.” Another factor may simply be that more adult (i.e. non-dependent) children are now living with their parents, as I mentioned here yesterday.

And thirdly, just this Monday I mentioned in my post here, as I have done before, that whilst I was practising I had one or two clients who remarried the person I had previously helped them to divorce. By coincidence, on Tuesday The Guardian ran a story about this ‘repeat marriage’ phenomenon. The story is mainly about specific couples, so I don’t want to comment about it in detail, but there is one interesting point. It is suggested that such remarriages are not as uncommon as many think, particularly in this age of social media, where it is much easier to get in touch with old flames. I can see that, although social media was not really a thing for much of the time I was practising – I think it was more a case of divorced couples bumping into each other again, as they continued to live in the same locality, and frequent the same places. Whatever, I wonder how many other family lawyers have come across this? The story tells us that data does not exist for it, but an expert on ‘rekindled romances’ (interesting specialism!) estimates “that one person in 100 will give a lover from long ago a second shot.” My experience suggests that that could be right, although I should point out that one of my clients did return to me to seek a second divorce from the same spouse…

Have a good weekend.

John Bolch often wonders how he ever became a family lawyer. He no longer practises, but has instead earned a reputation as one of the UK's best-known family law bloggers, with his content now supporting our divorce lawyers and child custody lawyers

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  1. naomi wood says:

    There are very few blogs that I actually make a point of reading as soon as I get a notification, but this is one. And I’m not even a family lawyer!

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